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Alumni Series: Women in Engineering – meet Karen Leong

Passion for Environmental Protection Fuels Alumna’s Engineering Dream

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Karen received the prestigious ASME Arthur L Williston Medal at a ceremony at the ASME Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition in Arizona, US, in November 2016.
Karen received the prestigious ASME Arthur L Williston Medal at a ceremony at the ASME Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition in Arizona, US, in November 2016. [Download Photo]

Karen Ka Long Leong received the 2016 ASME Arthur L Williston Medal with her paper on fuel choice regulation in the marine industry. The medal is presented annually to the student or recent graduate who writes the best paper in the area of civic service. The theme of the 2016 contest was “Achieving 2025 Greenhouse Gas Emissions While Creating Economic Growth and Quality of Life Benefits”. She talks about how her winning work could help the environment and how she enjoys being an engineer.

What is your winning paper about?
My paper on “Fuel Choice Regulation – The Way to Narrow the Gap Between Current IMO Marine Standard and 2025 Greenhouse Gas Emission Target” examined carbon dioxide reduction in the marine industry of the United States. I looked at biodiesel, natural gas and nuclear power as potential alternatives for ships, assessing their feasibility using a range of parameters, including technology maturity, lifecycle cost and environmental performance.

How did you come up with the idea of studying the US marine industry?
I came up with the idea of studying the US marine industry because in US the transportation sector emits the largest amount of carbon dioxide and I found that marine sector has fewer regulations relevant to carbon emission.

How is your paper relevant to the society?
The meaning of my paper is to suggest ideas to achieve the 2025 greenhouse emission target as the global warming worsens our living environment. We do need to have more solution to deal with the current situation as relying only on the current measures is not enough for achieving the goal and the 2°C target is just the minimum carbon reduction to prevent irreversible climate change.

Did you receive support from any mentors in writing the paper? How did they guide you?
Yes. The contest requires the author to seek support from an ASME member to be the sponsor by providing us advice throughout the preparation time. My sponsor Ir W K Chow, who is the Advisory Committee Chairman of the ASME Hong Kong Section, gave me lots of advice throughout the process. He guided me to set up the title of my paper first (which is one of the most challenging tasks during my preparation) and reviewed my work. As I have no similar experience on writing a paper for a competition before, I am grateful to have Ir Chow to discuss the direction and flow of the paper.

Also, I have sought advice from my department’s communication tutor Mr Graham Young when I finished the first draft. His advice helps me to improve the sentence structure and effectiveness of my expression.

Why did you choose engineering and HKUST?
I chose engineering because it enabled me to apply scientific knowledge to daily life. I was interested in learning science when I was in high school. HKUST Engineering School is well-known and offers a lot of opportunities for me to explore the subject.

What do you like about studying at HKUST?
My horizons are broadened over these years. The study life in HKUST is full of challenges and this enables me to keep on learning and improving. HKUST also gives me many opportunities to try different things and helps me to discover my potential.

What kind of project do you work on in your current position? How do you like the work experience?
I am involved in a water treatment project. I like to work in a contractor company because I can acquire more site work experience, which is vital for carrying out design work and can equip myself with better fundamental knowledge of mechanical design.

What are your short-term and long-term plans? What is your career aspiration?
My short-term plan is to accumulate more engineering knowledge and site experience these years. I hope that in long term I can make good use of these knowledge and experience to benefit our communities and the environment. My career aspiration is to participate in innovative projects that make our life different from the past.

As a female undergraduate student, how do you see the gender balance at SENG?
Although there are more male students in SENG, more and more females are joining every year. The gender balance is getting better and better these years. To me, gender balance is not going to hinder my interest in engineering. I get used to studying and working in an environment with more males.

Advice to prospective students who are interested in engineering?
Engineering knowledge is closely related to our daily lives. If you pay attention to the engineering knowledge applied to our daily lives, you will find that engineering is much more interesting.

As engineering students, you should also be curious about your daily lives as this helps to stimulate new ideas to solve real-world problems.

Apart from studying course materials, engineering students should also read magazines and websites related to the field to learn about state-of-the-art technology and interesting ideas. This will be helpful to your studies.


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